...By Henry George for TDPel Media.
Senior Conservative MPs have criticized the expected attendance of China’s vice-president, Han Zheng, at the King’s coronation in May. Han Zheng, who was recently appointed as president Xi Jinping’s deputy, is set to represent China at the event, according to Politico.
Han Zheng’s role in overseeing the crackdown on Hong Kong’s freedoms and the imposition of the national security law following mass protests in the city has been deemed unacceptable by the MPs.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith called his attendance “outrageous,” while Tim Loughton, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said it would be “an insult to the freedom-loving people” of Hong Kong.
Background Mr Han led Hong Kong affairs for Beijing between 2018 and March this year, during which time the national security law was imposed on the territory, stifling opposition and criminalising dissent.
This move has strained relations with the UK and led to the creation of a visa scheme allowing Hong Kongers to come to Britain.
Han’s attendance at the coronation will further antagonize Tory China hawks already angered by the government’s approach to Beijing.
The UK says China remains in breach of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which it had a duty to uphold Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms.
The controversy around Han’s attendance follows previous concerns raised when an invitation to the Queen’s funeral was extended to representatives from China last September.
At that time, Beijing was ultimately represented by Han’s predecessor, Wang Qishan, at the state funeral, while a delegation from the country also attended the Queen’s lying in state in Westminster Hall.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has extended invitations to the coronation to the heads of state of all nations with whom the UK has full diplomatic relations.
The UK government has called for a constructive but robust relationship with China, and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has urged direct engagement with Beijing.
However, the expected attendance of Han Zheng, given his role in overseeing the crackdown on Hong Kong’s freedoms, has generated concern among senior Conservative MPs.